book review, E-book, netgalley, Young Adult

ARC Review | Gravemaidens

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Gravemaidens

Author: Kelly Coon

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself. 

Thank you to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Gravemaidens is about a young woman named Kammani who is following in her father’s footsteps to become the best healer in Alu. But her family’s reputation was tarnished years ago when her father’s healing talent couldn’t save someone very important. So they went from a renowned family in society to being outcasts and her youngest brother is sent to live at the palace as punishment. Kammani’s life and family has fallen apart.

A very fascinating ritual takes place in this book. The Lugal, their ruler, is on the verge of death but when he dies tradition follows that three of the most beautiful girls will accompany the Lugal into the tomb and die with him. These gravemaidens will travel with him to the netherworld. Kammani’s sister is chosen as a sacred maiden. Where everyone saw this role as a true honor, Kammani only sees death and vows to save her sister.

I love the strong female characters and female relationships in this book. I especially loved Iltani, who is Kammani’s best friend. She’s funny and spunky, she really made the scenes come alive. Kammani is a strong young woman as well but sometimes I thought she was rash with her actions and thoughts concerning her sister and the Nin (princess). Her reasoning for who was trying to cause harm to her and the Lugal came to her so quick, even I questioned her accusations. Nanaea, who is Kammani’s younger sister comes off as materialistic but there is more to her than what everyone sees.

Kammani does have a romantic interest in Dagan. Their relationship is a slow burn, friends to lovers clean romance. Kammani is wary of becoming a wife and mother and nothing else, so she is conflicted about marrying Dagan. Dagan is patient, loyal and a good friend to Kammani. He really is just a good guy who loves her.

Gravemaidens is a story about the bonds of family, friendship, finding love and navigating the expectations of being a young woman. Overall this is a very solid debut and an engaging young adult fantasy novel.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday | Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why

(maybe you’re scared of it, worried it won’t live up to the hype, etc.) (submitted by Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea)

I just picked it up at the library this week, but I put it at the bottom of the library haul stack I got, which consists of 7 books. The cover is gorgeous and I even read the first few pages on Bookishfirst. I thought it was interesting but I’ve seen either hyped up reviews for it or lukewarm. So…has the hype died down yet? Because I rather read books when the hype is gone.

Bought this purely because of the over and it was on Bookoutlet for a steal! I’m saving it for when we get into October.

Apparently this has been on my Goodreads TBR since 2015! And I still see this title floating around, that’s some awesome staying power and I really should get to it SOON.

I read the Kushiel’s Dart series back in high school! That’s the last time I read her books and when I saw this book, I added to my TBR. I’m afraid to read it because I really don’t know what to expect from this book.

I’ve read every Kristin Hannah book except this one because at it’s release my mother-in-law read it first and told me it dealt with heavy subjects and I should at least get in the right mindset to read it. So I’ve put it off for too long. Will read it soon!

Another hyped title! I’ve read Colleen Hoover books before but everyone was raving about this one and yup…haven’t gotten to it yet. Maybe I’ll read it this fall.

Been waiting for this to show up at my library but it’s taking awhile and I enjoyed the first book but I feel like I’m forgetting what it’s about. So I definitely need to get to this one soon.

The Arcana Chronicles 🙃…I think I read books 1-5…yeah I think and I was seriously getting tired of Evie doing the back and forth dance between Arik and Jack! Don’t know if I will read this one – but I did enjoy the whole tarot card theme of the book.

Found this on my Goodreads TBR list and I remember the movie made me cry. So I would think the book will make me cry too. Which means I don’t know if I will ever read this one lol.

Well this TTT made me go ahead and clean up some of my Goodreads lists so that’s a good thing! 😅 I had so many books I wanted to read on there that I didn’t remember adding. If you have a list, leave a link in my comments below! Would love to see what is on your TBR list…I may just add it to mine.

book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, netgalley, romance, Uncategorized, Young Adult

ARC Review | The World On Either Side

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The World On Either Side

Author: Diane Terrana

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 288

Publication: September 10, 2019

Categories: Grief, Self-Harm, Young Adult, World Issues, Contemporary

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

After the death of her boyfriend, sixteen-year old Valentine stops going to school, quits seeing her friends, and, finally, won’t leave her bed. Desperate for her daughter to recover, Valentine’s mother takes her on a trek in Thailand. In the mountains north of Chiang Mai, Valentine finds a world she didn’t know existed, where houses are on stilts and elephants still roam wild. She learns about the Burmese civil war and the relentless violence against the Karen and Rohingya peoples.

Then she meets Lin, a mysterious young elephant keeper tormented by his hidden past, and an orphaned elephant calf, pursued by violent poachers. Together, the three flee deep into the jungle, looking for refuge and redemption. 

Thank you to Orca Book Publishers and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this eArc.

I used to be Valentine. I had that hard knot of pain in my heart that is described so well in this book after dealing with grief for a few years. That’s why I love The World On Either Side so much. I didn’t have that pain in my heart as a teenager though, I had it at twenty-nine and it just goes to show how this book could speak to young adults and adults as well.

I went into this book knowing it would deal with grief but I was afraid it would gloss over the issues happening in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) – issues I don’t really know well enough of myself. But this story took Valentine’s grief, and the issues going on in these countries and gave me a book that spoke to my heart. It also gave me an understanding of the disturbing things going in these countries.

Valentine is going through so much after her boyfriend Amir dies. She is depressed and in a tunnel of grief. Her parents are afraid to lose her but she can’t seem to come out of the dark cave she’s in. So her mom decides that they leave Canada and take a trip to Thailand together. And not just to the city of Bangkok, they are signed up to trek through the hills of Northern Thailand to visit the hill tribes. It’s her mom’s desperate attempt to make her leave the room she hasn’t left since Amir has died.

They meet up with a small group of other tourists as they journey through the hills of Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. They ride elephants, sleep in sleeping bags and barely get to bathe. We get a small glimpse of the political strife happening between the indigenous tribes and government of Myanmar. We also get some lessons on Buddhism.

The book also touched on the subject of elephants and poachers. I think that’s when my heart started to really break, the moment the elephants arrive. It explored the bond between mother and child, not only in the human world, but the animal world as well – in particular with elephants who feel strongly about their young and vice versa. Elephants who grieve. Then there is Lin, who’s backstory is unimaginable and scary for anyone who lives a safe life outside of these countries. I hurt for Lin and what he has been through. He is one of the guides for the group and he has a past that comes back to haunt him and Valentine.

By the end of this book, Valentine sees how much forgiveness plays a big part in healing her broken spirit and how some things in life are not so black and white, especially when it comes to Lin and his life choices. My heart was so sore for Valentine, her mom, for the elephants, Lin, the Karen tribe, the Rohingya and everyone caught up in personal grief and turmoil and the violence that the government has brought upon the people.

I love how courage is what gets our characters through this trek. Valentine goes through some difficult situations on this trip but she has to dig down deep to be braver than she’s ever had to be. We see that she does have fight in her still. Lin’s story also shows us what kind of courage it took for him to survive the life he’s led, and the kind of future that will be best for his situation. We even see how all of this affects Valentine’s mom and how she is fighting for her daughter and the toll it takes.

This book is wonderfully written with the lush descriptions of the trek in the mountains of Thailand through a tourists’ point of view and someone like Lin who belongs there and nowhere at the same time. I felt like I was there with the characters. It made me want to learn more about the Karen and Rohingya tribes and hope one day the conflict will stop. This story explored mental health, love, loss and world issues. And though at times there are dark scenes in this book, the story touched my heart so deeply, the heart that was once a painful ball of hurt and at times still is.

I absolutely loved this book and finished it in one day. I definitely will need a copy of it on my shelf when it releases in September and I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Get it here: Amazon

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!


book review, fantasy, magic, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Finale (Caraval, #3)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Author: Stephanie Garber

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 478

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time—only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

I just finished reading Finale and I’m still processing my thoughts as I write this review. I gave it 4 stars but it’s dropped to 3.5…? And maybe my expectations were a bit high after reading Legendary, but this one fell short for me. I’m bummed that I didn’t love it as much as the other two.

This book picks up right away after Legendary. It is told through Scarlett and Tella, the Dragna sisters. Legend is about to be crowned emperor except the Fates are waking up. And he needs his powers at full force to defeat them, or at least take down their leader, The Fallen Star. He is a new villain that rules and punishes the other Fates to keep them in line. Around this story of taking down The Fallen Star is another game our main characters are playing, but it’s not Caraval.

I don’t hate love triangles in stories. I mostly enjoy them because I like the angst and trying to decide who would be best for our main characters – but by book three, I wanted these Dragna sisters to make a decision on their men. Caraval was a mysterious high stakes game invented by Legend, but the other game being played in this series is the game of love. And they all keep playing it, to the point of distraction.

Scarlett tests Julian’s love by meeting the real Nicolas. Nicolas has a cameo in this book, I don’t even know if he was necessary to the story. Tella tests Legend by running away from him and going to Jacks. This happens, a lot. After awhile, I got weary and I wanted choices to be made.

via Giphy

I liked Tella in Legendary, but she is so indecisive and impulsive in Finale. And yes, she loves the bad boys. That’s fine, I like bad boys myself. She got herself into situations that tested my patience but after awhile I just figured she likes the drama, she likes the game. How else could I explain why Tella keeps going back to these guys who don’t treat her right? Okay so they are good looking and great kissers, but come on…this girl seems to pine for heartache. Also she’s always creeping around trying to find out what Legend is up to in the beginning of the book. 😅 I was like, girl…what are you doing? 🤦🏻‍♀️

via Giphy

Julian and Scarlett at least had a relationship that seemed steadier, maybe because he’s not immortal. But Legend and Tella? I guess Tella did have a valid dilemma, to choose between Jacks the jerk with a literally devastating kiss or Legend the player who could also act like a jerk. 🙄 I was thinking…run away…from both of them! Are there no other options out there for Tella? hahaha…not gonna lie, I was even rooting for Jacks at one point.

via Giphy

This story was also darker than Caraval and Legendary. There are blood vows, obsessions and deceptions. But at least the story tried to point out obsession is not love. I did find it interesting that love was what could kill an immortal. It made some of the characters in this book question what they valued more: love or immortality? We also learn more about Paradise (the Dragna sisters’ mother) and her role with The Fallen Star. As I said, it’s a game of love, a dangerous game at that.

The ending was slightly surprising and left a little open so I wonder if the world of Caraval isn’t over. There are some questions left unanswered.

There is no Caraval game in Finale. The game in Finale is love and I think it took the mystery away from what the Caraval series was all about. The grandeur, the element of surprise, the romance, the players, the locations and illusions of Caraval was missing in Finale. Maybe that was the point – Tella had to decide if Legend the person was what she loved, or Legend the illusion. As a series, it is fun, different and enjoyable. As for Finale, the book, it wasn’t my favorite in the series. But it did have a happy ending at least. 😊

Get it here: Amazon

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost for you. Thanks!

bookish, fantasy, Young Adult

First Line Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

It’s been a long week folks, with slower reading time for me. Trying to take my time and not feel the rush to finish up a book in one sitting. I tend to do that and forgo sleep but I needed to rest this week. It’s been hot in Hawaii – has summer weather hit wherever you are?

Okay let’s get there lines down…

Scarlett Dragna’s bedroom was a palace built of wonder and the magic of make-believe. But to a person who’d forgotten how to imagine, it might have just looked like a disaster of dresses.

Can you guess?

🔽

🔽

🔽

🔽

🔽

I’m 75% done so we shall see what happens in the end! 😱 After this book, I have to finish a few I started but have been taking awhile to finish. What are you reading this weekend?

Happy Reading Book Lovers! 😘

book review, E-book, fantasy, netgalley, Young Adult

Arc Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Mara Rutherford

Format: eBook

Pages: 384

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

Thank you to Harlequin TEEN and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this e-arc.

The beginning of this story is intriguing. We meet twin sisters, Nor and Zadie, and they live in Varenia, a place on the water where the most beautiful girls are from. They are so beautiful, the kingdom of Ilara always goes there to find their future queen. Requirements for being chosen as a queen? The potential queen has to be the most beautiful girl in Varenia. Appearance wise, you have to be flawless, meaning no scars among other things.

Zadie is perfect. Nor, on the other hand, has a scar on her face she acquired from saving her sister’s life. I love their sisterly bond and how they would do anything for each other. I also enjoyed this world of Varenia that the author created, it’s a poor place to grow up in, the people are struggling and the pearls they survive on is becoming more scarce. It’s a beautiful place with gorgeous girls, but the reality is that they will struggle without their pearls. Varenians are a part of the sea, their life is the ocean, but Nor dreams of exploring beyond Varenia.

I think the first part of the book was stronger than the second half only because Nor’s connection is strongest with her sister and her home. When she arrives in Ilara it cuts her off from the sunshine, ocean, fresh air and her relationships. In New Castle she is bereft of all the things she loves and lives with a villain, her future husband.

There is a romance in the story but it doesn’t take over the book, which was fine. I felt like even if it it didn’t have romance, the love between the sisters would have been enough for me. There is also some thrilling action which I enjoyed. But the ending was rushed which is so unfortunate because this book started off so well and I was really into it.

Overall, it is an enjoyable read about a loving sisterly bond and how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Get it here: Amazon

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost for you. Thanks!

book review, bookish, E-book, fantasy, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

Arc Review: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Format: Ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic, Quest, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Thank you to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for allowing me to read this eArc book for an honest review.

I loved it.

And I wasn’t quite sure, even with the synopsis, what I was getting myself into. But the first few sentences let me know right away I was going to be taken on a magical journey and the story held to it’s promise.

The writing reads like a dream. It’s very beautiful and reminds me of a fairy tale – but with a twist. Maia Tamarin’s idyllic life is torn at the seams due to unfortunate life events and to help her family she poses as a boy to compete for the chance to become the imperial tailor for the emperor. It sounds like Mulan, but with fashion involved.

Here’s where things take on a Project Runway spin and yes, I used to love that show! 😬 So did I enjoy that part of the book? Oh yes! The backstabbing, the challenges, the fashion, and wondering who will be eliminated, makes for great drama.

Then there is the impossible challenge which takes Maia and the imperial enchanter, Edan, on a quest. I love how Maia and Edan’s romance builds. She is not impressed by him and he helps her because he is intrigued by her but it stays that way for awhile. Edan is snarky and flirty but she doesn’t put up with it. The relationship grows deeper as they open up to one another during the quest. Yet, after the impossible becomes possible, Maia makes a choice that has consequences for both of them.

Maia is strong, brave, and willful for her age. She loves hard – it’s present in her love for her family and for Edan. I hope in the second book she gets to appreciate her feminine side since throughout Spin the Dawn, she is living in a male dominated world and has to pretend be a boy. Even in her family she was surrounded by men – so I think it would be nice for her to have a female friend who knows she’s female. The only other female in this story who has a big role is Lady Sarnia, who is the emperor’s future wife. She comes off as a villain, but she is someone trapped in a man’s world also, so I hope she gets more of a spotlight in book two because there is more to learn about her.

This story was filled with emotion, magic, love and epic adventure. It was more than I expected and I can’t wait for the next book.

Get it here: Amazon


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book review, bookish, E-book, magic, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Legendary (Caraval #2)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Author: Stephanie Garber

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 416

Categories: Magic, Game, Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

I’m not sure why I wasn’t ready to read this last year when it came out – maybe I needed a break from fantasy books? I know I borrowed it and didn’t finish it. Well, I was ready now! Especially because I borrowed it again and saw I only had a few days left – I was determined to read it.

I vaguely remember book one, Caraval. I know I loved that book. This time it isn’t about Scarlett. Legendary is about her sister, it is Donatella’s story.

Not only do I love her name, but I could relate to Tella. She’s spunky and brave, always throwing caution to the wind. Tella likes to seem unaffected by the boys she dallies with, not trusting the concept of “love”. She has a more pressing issue she’s passionate about, finding her mother, Paloma. Tella enlists the help of someone in secret but in truth she’s basically signed her soul to the devil.

This book drew me back in right away to the very mysterious, enchanting and almost sinister world of Caraval. Caraval is a game masterminded by someone called Legend. No one knows who he really is, just that he has powerful magic that peaks during Caraval. He creates a game with players, clues and fascinating locations, but the game sometimes gets a bit too real. Deathly and scarily real, as Scarlett learned in the first book. This time, Tella plays the game and once more it blurs the line of reality and what isn’t real. The winner of Caraval gets to meet Legend in person, and Tella owes someone payment for their help. She owed them the identity of Legend in order to free her mother. Tella needs to win or she will die.

The story is in every sense magical from the description of the location, the people who work for Legend, to the lavish dresses and costumes that Tella and her sister adorns every night. The writing is lyrical and delicious, in a decadent way. I swear this story is so scrumptious, I ate it up! I ate it up quick.

We learn about the Fates in this story and more about a certain cursed deck of cards. I really enjoyed that part of the story because it really put Tella in a dilemma. She has an impossible choice and I wondered what path she would take. Also, we learn more about who Legend is in this book, finally! I was beginning to think he was every hot guy we encountered in the book. I didn’t know who to trust or believe! And can we speak about the guys? Even the villains and irritating guys are handsome and I thought, no wonder Tella has fun kissing whoever she wants with so many attractive guys around. 😅 But there is romance in here ladies and gents…but we will see where it goes in the next book!

I started this book yesterday and finished it BEFORE midnight! I couldn’t stop, it was so good. I did find some parts slower than the first book …or maybe because Caraval was new and exciting it went by quicker. Also, do we get to see more of The Prince of Hearts in Finale? Because he sort of dropped off in an anti-climatic way. 🤔 Of course now I’m ready to read Finale, and I don’t have a copy.

So that will be my goal today – finding Finale. 😅 I need to know how this ends.

Get it here: Amazon

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost for you. Thanks!

book review, E-book, magic, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: The Culling Trials (Shadowspell Academy) Book Series

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Culling Trials (Shadowspell Academy 1-3)

Authors: K.F. Breene & Shannon Mayer

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: Book 1 – 238 ; Book 2 – 242 ; Book 3 – 186

Categories: Young Adult, Adventure, Trials, Magic, Supernatural, Friendship, Cliff Hanger Endings

Book 1 Blurb:

You Don’t Choose The Academy. The Academy Chooses You. 

I had no idea how those words would change my life. Or how they’d changed my life already… 

Until the day the most dangerous man I’ve ever met waltzed onto my farm and left us a death sentence. 

In an invitation. 

My younger brother has been chosen for the prestigious, secret magical school hidden within the folds of our mundane world. A place so dangerous, they don’t guarantee you’ll make it out alive. 

If he doesn’t go our entire family will be killed. 

It’s the same invitation my older brother received three years ago—the same place he mysteriously died. 

The academy has already killed one sibling. I’ll be damned if they take another. 

I do the only thing an older sister can: chop off my hair, strap on two bras to flatten the girls, and take my brother’s place. 

Magic and monsters are real. Assassins are coming for me, and the dead are prone to rise. What’s a girl faking it as a boy supposed to do? That’s right—beat the academy at its own game. 

Or die trying.

MY REVIEW

The first book of The Culling Trials we are introduced to Wild. She works on a ranch, looks like a boy and takes her younger brother’s place in The Culling Trials. Of course she doesn’t know anything about supernatural creatures and magic – her parents didn’t tell her about it and she gets thrown into the trials, lacking in knowledge. But she makes up for it with strength, confidence and instincts. I love Wild, she’s badass and doesn’t take b.s. but she’s a nice person too.

In book one she meets other supernaturals, learns about the Houses: Shade, Wonder, Unmentionables, Night, and Claw. The Culling trials is a test to see who will be chosen for each houses.

The book is fast paced, short and ends with a cliff-hanger. It is filled with lots of action. Her unusual team needs to pass each trial for each of the houses. But something isn’t right and it all points to Wild. She’s undercover as a boy to protect her family, and she’s learning she has powers she never knew she had. She seems to be a target, but who is targeting her? Wild needs to find out before something drastic happens. I enjoyed this first book as it sets up us for more action in book two.

Book 2 Blurb:

Being accepted into an elite school of magic, monsters, and assassins was not my idea of higher education. But here I am, fighting my way through the Culling Trials to claim my right to be taught. 

As if the gauntlet-type physical and mental tests aren’t enough, people are going missing. 

People that are my friends. 

In a dangerous world where no one is as they seem, the golden rule is simple: Trust no one. They think we should just look out for ourselves. That we should leave the fallen behind and ask no questions. 

They clearly think we’re idiots. I got this far by trusting my instincts, and I’m not going to back down now. 

Those kids won’t be left to die. 

Not on my watch. 

MY REVIEW

The action never ends in this second book! I love Wild’s team, made up of kids with different powers. It’s not usual to have a mix in a team, but Wild is a natural leader and seems to have an affinity for each house. She brings out the strength of each teammate and even if some annoy her, she still manages to get along with them somehow.

There is no real romance in this series yet, there is a hint of something and some flirtation, but that’s all and I’m totally okay with it! I like Wild and her blooming friendship with her teammates. But someone is trying to take her out of the trials. Who can she trust? The trials are getting harder, will her team survive? Also, there are kids going missing, one of them is her goblin teammate and she’s on a mission to figure out what’s happening to them.

This is another fast-paced book in the series. It’s a quick read and so enjoyable. I’m glad the cliffhanger endings don’t leave you waiting for too long between the books. I think the books could’ve been combined to make it a duology instead of a trilogy. On to the next book!

Book 3 Blurb:

The last of the Culling Trials is here. I foolishly thought I’d survived the worst. 

My team is falling to pieces around me and my heart is shattered for the losses I’ve endured. But I can’t stop when I’m so close to the end. There are too many people depending on me. 

I foolishly thought there wasn’t much more I could lose…until the nature of my bloodline comes to light. 

I’m not what I thought I was. Not what anyone thought I was. 
But to tell people the truth would be to kill us all. 

To fail the trials will mean death, but to succeed might damn me for life. 

MY REVIEW

This final book is shorter than the other books but once more we see Wild and her team surviving the worse of the trials. Also, her gender has been revealed and she still hasn’t been kicked out for lying, which is a good thing, right? Wild is such a rule breaker, she’s a fun character and loyal. This last book puts Wild through her toughest trial yet and she’s not about to let anyone die on her watch.

Even thought it’s the last book it left some things open, maybe for another series? I’m still curious about a few things, like the Sandman’s history, the Shadowkiller and Rory. I feel like even though the series came to an end, there is more to cover with those characters and I hope these authors come back and start another series.

This was a super-fun series if you like Academy trope books (I’m a bit addicted to them). It doesn’t have romance, just minor flirtation but so much action and some awesome friendship bonds that I hope we get to experience again soon!

bookish, coming of age, E-book, fantasy, magic, Musings, new releases, romance, sci fi, Young Adult

Friday Five: 5 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Book Series – I Read On Kindle Unlimited

I’ve been meaning to do some fun Top 5 or Top 10 list post and sometimes I just don’t have the time! How do you awesome bloggers do it? 😘

So Kindle Unlimited – let’s talk about it. For a monthly subscription you get to read unlimited books in the Kindle library. When I had no kids, I bought books like crazy! When we moved into a small house, I had to donate my books, keeping only a few. When I had kids, and a bigger mortgage – I had to be on a budget! Thank goodness for libraries!

I tried out Kindle Unlimited because of one author, Christi Caldwell. I was looking for new romance authors because it was my favorite genre but I was having a hard time finding ones that appealed to me. I read one of her books and wanted more so I got a subscription. But because it’s a monthly subscription, there were times I was in a reading rut trying to find something good there – and cancelled. I joined again, cancelled and joined again! 😅 Then I tried some of the fantasy ebooks…and I’ve had a steady subscription since. So here are my 5 fantasy/sci fi (mostly fantasy) book series I’ve found on Kindle Unlimited that I’ve enjoyed so far!

The Spoken Mage Series by. Melanie Cellier

This series is pretty good. I enjoyed seeing Elena, the spoken mage, learn, grow and fall in love. My favorite thing though is the friendships she’s made along the way. I’m going to be finishing up the series soon, so hopefully it ends on a good note.

The Tainted Accords Series by. Kelly St. Clare

I read this series last year and really enjoyed it! I was transported to a fascinating fantasy world. Princess Olina has worn a veil over her face since her infancy and watching her transform from a girl with a veil to one without is pretty awesome.

Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles by. Elise Kova

I should feature the Air Awakens series but honestly it’s been four years since I’ve read it. So instead I’ll talk about Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles, the re-entry into Elise Kova’s fantasy world filled with magic and political intrigue. I’ve only read book one, and will get to book two eventually when I get this TBR list down a little. 😅

The Culling Trials by. K.F. Breene & Shannon Mayer

These academy books always get me! I’m serious! Haha – but this series is very addicting. I’m in the middle of book three right now and can’t wait to see how it ends. Sometimes these indie book are so short, they could have mashed these three books to make one book! But I don’t mind the short wait between the books. In this series we have a very strong female character who is surrounded by vampires, necromancer, goblins, magic users and assassins. It’s so fast pace and fun! It’s a wild adventure throughout the whole series. Speaking of “Wild” that’s our character’s nickname and I can see why! Loving this series so far!

Secondborn Series by Amy A. Bartol

I am not a big sci-fi fan. Actually this was the series that got me saying, oh, okay maybe I like sci-fi, maybe… I love Amy A. Bartol’s stories because they are creative even if they go off a bit tangent and wild, there is something about them that is addictive. Secondborn is cool, Traitor Born is my favorite and Rebel Born – though I gave it 4 1/2 stars because the romance part came together the way I wanted and I’m obsessed with Reykin haha, this book goes almost into another dimension diving into sci-fi/mythology/fantasy it made my head spin. It works for some people and others hated. I actually understood what the author was trying to do – but there was a lot of info dump about parallel universes, mind control and then add the mythology…it’s a whirlwind. It would have played out better if we had hints of these things in book one and two for sure! I still love it though. 😬

Have you read any of these books? Are you a Kindle Unlimited subscriber? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading! 😘